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Lake Forest Mandarin immersion parents rally in support of program

December 21, 2013

I see I’m being chastized in some blogs in Lake Forest for claiming that MI parents are wealthier and more educated there. Actually, what I said was that that’s often the case (it certainly was in our school) but I didn’t know what the issues were in Lake Forest. And no one from the school district has returned my calls so I can’t get any real information about why Lake Forest was chosen as the site for the MI program.

But it is a common situation that school districts create (talk to the folks at Broadway Elementary in Los Angles and Ohlone Elementary in Palo Alto for other stories of how it’s gone) . They plunk down a magnet program to bring new families into a school that’s under enrolled (for whatever reason) and then ignore the fact that the new families and the ones already at the school might not automatically fuse into one loving, kumbaya-singing happy group.  And they leave the parents to clean up the frequently sticky situation they created.

The reality is that we need lots of strong, vibrant public schools in our country, and having multiple programs can help create them. I’m all for traditional schools, magnet schools, special-focus schools (my daughters dream of Broadway so I’m glad we have an arts high school for when the time comes.) Fighting amongst ourselves isn’t the answer. Fighting poor funding by local, state and federal governments that leaves us bickering over ever-tinier bits of a pie is what we need to do. We all love our children and our schools and hopefully can focus on that.




The argument that seems most appropriate here is that not all parents want Mandarin immersion. If a school district suddenly said “All Kindergarteners must now enroll in immersion, no exceptions!” people would be up in arms. It’s about offering options. Just as you might have math and science or arts magnet schools, immersion is a choice.

My guess, however, is that the school district in this case did what many do, which is place the new MI program in an underenrolled school, because it had room and because it needed an influx of families to fill classrooms. However MI families tend to skew more wealthy and educated so there are often issues between a school’s previous families and the new families. I would bet, but don’t know, that that is what’s happening here.

The key then is not to get rid of Mandarin, but for everyone (and especially the Mandarin parents) to work hard for the entire school.

What’s unfortunate is that school districts often set this dynamic up but then give the school community few tools to deal with it.

Good luck to everyone in Lake Forest.



Lake Forest parents passionate over Mandarin

Supporters love immersion program, but detractors say their kids feel left out

By Danielle Gensburg, Special to the Tribune5:51 p.m. CST, December 20, 2013

Some parents of students who have taken part in Lake Forest School District 67’s Mandarin immersion program attended a recent school board meeting to express their support for the program and defend it against the criticisms of other parents who say it creates division among the kids.

The partial immersion program, implemented three years ago as a part of the district’s world language program, aims to help students develop language proficiency and cultural competence at an early age, according to district administrators. The program is housed at Cherokee Elementary School.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for families to have the choice to have their young children participate,” said Lauren Fagel, the assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction, technology and assessment. “If you want the highest level of proficiency, then you want exposure at the earliest age possible. Anyone who comes to watch the kids speaking a language that they’ve never heard or seen before, it’s amazing.”

Please read more here.

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